Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fall of Harmony (A.K.A. The First Post)

So here we begin with a review of the recently released Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.

Dr. Brule taught me that Pruppets come from marinara.

Konami has brought us the challenging, interesting, and exploration filled Castlevania series since 1986. The classic 2D side scrolling labyrinth castle crawl returned this past Wednesday to home consoles, well...just the Xbox 360 for now (Sorry PS3 players, if the title sells well Konami may put it on the PS3), but at what price?

 Visually the game is stunning with it's true 1080p HD graphics, high quality sprites, and crisp colors. Castle Dracula seems more intriguing and immersible than ever. Even the devious denizens that dwell within it's walls got a new coat of paint which make them look more impressive than previous titles, however, some enemies got the lazy treatment as the Sniper of Goth doesn't even get a death animation where it just rotates upside-down and falls like a paper doll
Too bad these stats mean nothing here.
The bosses are the most spectacular, not just in size, but in their new skins as well as area effects. As the first boss fires beams that shoot through most of the rooms in the area and cause a decent amount of damage on impact. Well, when it comes right down to it the big bads have to be showstoppers as, like Order of Ecclesia, the whole game is one big Boss Attack Mode. Players in solo and mulitplayer games will race the clock in order to spank the evil target that lurks at the heart of the castle maze area. This is met as sort of a challenge as the game presents itself as not only a Boss Attack game, but as a classic Castlevania game mashed with loot whoring. For smiting the boss you need to be fast and near untouchable, however the desire for loot and goodies will bring us a good 5 plus minutes out of our way just for a set of Hobo's Clothes. These sidetracking quests for so-so goodies can also result in LittleBigPlanet Jr. style scenarios where a couple of players must stand on one platform in order to raise another player on a second platform. The 30minute time limit, however, does give the player ample time to explore the already viewable map and put the hurt on the evil, but fighting with your character's own heavy limbs is another challenge. Here, no matter how big, strong, small, or lithe a character is they all walk as though they are wading through a pool of extra thick Jell-O Pudding. There hasn't been a vampire hunter this slow since Castlevania Legends.
So pretty, so disproportionate.

From the pants load of pudding the combat gets a little bad as well, although standard for Castlevania combat, in Harmony of Despair some hit boxes seem t be off, as you clearly pierce a monster yet, nothing happens and if you are lucky, sometimes that works in your favor as when a bat knocks you off a high ledge onto spikes, yet the spikes don't bother your's all mind over matter I guess.

Now back to is this a Boss Attack game or castle exploration. That all depends on your play style and who you decide to play as. Characters like Charlotte and Soma don't benefit at all by time restraints as they need plenty of time to farm monsters and spells in order to level their own powers and gain new ones, while characters like Jonathan Morris and Alucard can muscle their way to the boss and beyond without ever deviating from the fastest path or worrying about new upgrades. Shanoa fits as an in betweener where she can benefit by same time wasting, but can certainly move along fast enough. However, the character selection brings with it my BIGGEST aesthetic problem with this game: NOT ONE CHARACTER CARRIES THE BELMONT NAME! Why Konami? Where's My Richter or Simon? Big deal I have a whip wielding Morris, he still isn't a true Belmont!

I, for one, was really looking forward to this game's release. A new 2D console Castlevania really set my nostalgia-goggles into gear and added multiplayer sounded refreshing. Though it does satiate my nostalgia lust, it isn't up to snuff with the series as the time limit, being too long for a true Boss Attack and too short for a true castle crawl, muddles the game's direction and focus while the enemies, challenge level, and constant auto saving of pointless, easy to acquire gear makes the title extremely casual for the series. When you die there are no consequences, you keep what you find and can even use that gear on different characters.

In conclusion, I will leave it at this: for players that want a 2D challenge, stick to the latest GBA and DS titles or just download Symphony of the Night on your 360 or PS3, for nostalgia players this game will satisfy your inner child, but your money would be better spent in the WiiShop on Super Castlevania IV or the NES titles. But for players who have never played or heard of Castlevania before, this is a fantastic beginning for you. Buy it now for a modest $15 download.

Now that my nostalgia has been wettened I must track down a copy of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and finish Castlevania 3 (again).

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